The Piaget Secrets & Lights collection of 38 unique pieces was unveiled at the recent Watches & Wonders fair in Hong Kong. Perhaps, the stand-out model of the collection was the Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif Enamel watch. It takes the range-wide concept of celebrating the historic Silk Route between Venice and Samarkand, and depicts the journey in a lustrous enamel frieze, flanking the sides of the case.
The range en masse is an impressive showcase of Piaget’s unusually broad skill set (we debuted the collection here). The company’s lengthy experience in jewelry is evident in all that they do – their timepieces are miniature works of art, designed with a relentless aesthetic bent that rarely sees form play second fiddle to function. But it’s when Piaget really try, when they really push the boat out, that they are capable of incredible things. Their enamelled dials and cases are great, but they are easily dismissed as jewellery that lacks the horological punch many serious buyers look for in a piece unique. Their ultra-thin watches and their tourbillons, however, tickle the technical fancy just enough for them to graduate to the next level. They are beautiful, as Piaget watches often are, but they are mechanically mesmerising as well. With the Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif Enamel, we see an artisanal piece that marries form and function, but is the result desirable?
I’m not sure it’s fair to criticize the craftsmanship on display here – the champlevé dial and external case enamelling are superb; the rotating tourbillon on the dial is a micro-mechanical beauty. In my opinion, how you interpret this watch comes down to whether you like the styling. For a lot of people, this watch will be too fancy, too fussy, too feminine (for a man, at least). The bezel decoration is weird – thick white hold bars separate channels of blue enamel. From the front, the Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif Enamel watch looks fine, but I personally dislike the undulating appearance from the side.
But it is the side-on view of this watch that reveals its true beauty! The scene depicting the city of Samarkand is excellent. Architectural imagery and the two camel-mounted riders tie this watch in with the rest of the range. Although this is a unique piece, there is another watch of almost identical style, but for a slight change to the hour hand on the dial and to the case flank decoration. The other watch of this kind presents Venice as opposed to Samarkand.
Talking of the hour hand, it is worth pointing out that it doesn’t really exist. The dial, which itself looks like a mosaic floor, polished flat to an optically dazzling sheen, is actually composed of two concentric circles. The outer ring is for the indices and decoration, whereas the central disc is an enamelled hour indicator. The abandoning of the hour hand gives center stage to the minute hand, which is carrying a tourbillon on its counter-poise.
I don’t mind this mode of presentation (Cartier have done it to excellent effect in the past), but on this particular model, I find the minute hand to be a very unattractive shape. It seems big, brutal, and cumbersome when set against such a finely wrought background and within a 45mm white gold case that boasts a diamond-studded crown and some of the best engraving I have seen in recent times.
The case back of the Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif Enamel watch is dreadfully disappointing. I actually like the contouring of the solid back and the Mythical Journey logo, which is engraved and enamelled on the case back, but can’t for the life of me understand why they would cover up the movement on a piece of this grandeur. Everything else about this watch demands attention, and yet the movement – its very lifeblood – is hidden behind a case back that looks, although comfortable, more suited to a luxury quartz. In reality, the movement is the Swiss manual-wind Piaget in-house calibre 608P with 27 jewels, 21,600vph and a power reserve of 80 hours.
To preserve the crispness of the dial decoration (which really is superb), Piaget has etched their logo into the underside of the sapphire crystal. I always profess to dislike this habit, but on the previous two watches I’ve seen to feature it, it not only looks okay, is quite essential to the execution of the underlying dial. In this instance, the floating Piaget evokes thoughts of a star hanging in the sky. This celestial sense is repeated by the left-hand case flank, which depicts the two “wise men” travelling through the desert to the city of lights.
The leather strap with a fold-over clasp was, I think, a good choice for this watch. A bracelet would have had to continue the enamel inlays to match, and that might have been a bit much, in my opinion. All in all, the Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif Enamel watch is an excellently fashioned piece, with some real flashes of class. I love the dial, adore the case flanks, enjoy the playful “P” on the exquisite tourbillon cage, and agree with the leather strap; I find the minute hand too large and unwieldy, the closed case back unforgivable, and the floating Piaget logo just about tolerable. No doubt this watch will wind up in a safe somewhere, as it is undeniably valuable to a collector. The Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif Enamel watch is a piece unique and hence the price is available only upon request. piaget.com